Elizabeth L. Windsor, DMin.
August 23, 2020
Matthew 6: 5-15
Please note that this sermon was developed for the use of props with each line of the prayer. It may be more helpful to watch the worship recording than to read just the words.
HALLOWEDS AND TRESPASSES
Many, many years ago when I was just beginning my ministry, I served as a Children’s Chaplain. Working with kids ages 4-7, I was given the freedom to lead worship in any way I chose, but there was ONE thing I had to accomplish. I had to have the children memorize the Lord’s Prayer. My first reaction was “ok – I can do that”– except I couldn’t. Without much pedagogical training at that point, I quickly realized that words such as “hallowed” and “trespasses” were not only unpronounceable for children who still had trouble saying their first and last names together, the words themselves had no meaning. So I spent most of the first year I was with these children going through the prayer a line a week, using props and talking with them about what the words tell us about God and ourselves. By the end of the program year, they still stumbled over the big words, but they knew the prayer, and I had learned so much exploring it with them.
Mostly likely, you learned and memorized the Lord’s Prayer in Sunday School when you were young too. And we have all said or sung it more times than we can count. But when was the last time we really meditated on the words? What if the Lord’s Prayer is a model to guide us in our living of the Christian faith rather than something to memorize and recite in public worship?
This morning, let me offer you what became my way of teaching the Lord’s Prayer and what children taught me about it.
The Lord’s Prayer is the oldest Christian prayer we have and Jesus shared it with his first disciples. Christians all over the world and in all times and places have said this prayer. There are some big words and hard things to understand in this prayer, so we are going to think about them together. The prayer begins:
Our Father, who art in Heaven
Some people find it helpful to think about God’s love for us like a father’s love for his children. But you can think about God’s love as being like the love of the person who knows you and loves you the best. You can think about God’s love being like your Mom and/or Dad’s love for you, or the love of your sister or brother, or the way your grandparents or your spouse love you. It could even be a pet. A young boy told me a story about his dog. One day they were playing with a ball in the yard and it got loose. Both the boy and the dog ran into the street. But the dog cut in front of the boy and the dog was hit by the car coming at them, not the boy. The dog recovered, and the boy understood that his dog had loved him so much, she had kept him safe by getting hurt instead.
God’s love for is bigger than any love, but it helps us to think about it by remembering how we feel when we are with the ones who know and love us best.
Hallowed be thy Name
“Hallowed” is a funny word, isn’t it? “Hallowed” is a word that means “holy” or “special.” And God’s name IS special and holy. We don’t want to use God’s name to hurt other people or in a way that is disrespectful. I’ll bet you don’t like it when people make fun of your name or say it in a nasty way. God doesn’t like it either.
Thy Kingdom Come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven
We ask God to help us do God’s will and to help us make the world the way God wants it to be – just like God sees the world in Heaven. What do you think the earth would be like if it was the way God wanted it to be? The most consistent first answer I’ve gotten to this question is “There would be dinosaurs.” But as we read the Bible and hear the stories of Jesus, we begin to understand that God wants good for everyone – that God desires that we share, take care of each other and take care of the earth.
In this part of the prayer, we are asking God to use us to help make the earth the way God imagines it can be.
Give us this day our daily bread
Back in the times when the Bible was written, bread was the basic necessity of life- everyone need bread to eat. But not everyone had it. In the prayer, bread is a symbol for asking God to make sure we have what we need. What do we think are the things we need? Kids have interesting answers. Without fail, they will begin by talking about their video games, toys and movies – as we might think about our cars, sporting events and the things we are missing due to Covid. But reflect on what matters most to you, what is essential to your life. Kids and adults wind up in the same place; parents, family, school, food, work and warm houses are the things we need most. God understands those needs and wants everyone to have them. That means we need to act to make sure others have access to the things we need, because they need them too.
And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us
“Trespasses” is another of those big words that we need to think about. Have you ever seen a sign like this one? We “trespass” against someone, when we do something wrong, something that is hurtful to or disrespectful of another person. Sometimes, we “trespass” against others by NOT doing the things we should to take care of others. Where are the “trespasses” in our lives? What do we need to do to make amends and restore wholeness for those we wound and for ourselves?
We ask God to forgive us for the wrongs we have done or for the things we have left undone, but we also promise God that we will forgive people who do these same things to us or to others we care about. This is very hard and sometimes we have to work our whole lives to forgive someone. It isn’t always easy, but God understands that it is hard and knows when we are working at it. We don’t have to be perfect about it, we just have to be serious about working to forgive someone.
When I began teaching the Lord’s Prayer, the Columbine shootings had not yet happened. In the time since, school shootings have always come up. We have to be careful for ourselves and for others to remember that forgiveness is not about forgetting, but about being willing to go forward in a new way. It is very hard to think that someone who did something so horrible could or should ever be forgiven. And we are right to be angry when other people are hurt or murdered. God is angry too. But we also need to remember that no matter what someone has done, God believes that they are worthy of and deserve forgiveness. Sometimes, the closest we can get to forgiving someone is to believe that God can forgive them, even if we aren’t able to.
Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil
“Temptation” is another big word. “Temptation” can be lots of things. What tempts you? It can be something as big wanting to take from other people or as small as sneaking a cookie from the cookie jar when Mom or Dad has said, “Not until after dinner!” We ask God to help us stay away from the things that we know are wrong for us to do. And that is how “deliver us from evil” gets into the prayer. In the “trespasses” line just before this one, we prayed about forgiving others from the wrong they had done us. This line of the prayer is our asking God to both keep us from doing the wrong thing as well as protecting us from the wrong things other people might do to us.
For Thine is the Kingdom, and the power and the glory, forever and ever
This almost last part of the prayer is our reminding ourselves that everything in the world, even our very selves, belongs to God. Even the things we think we own, really belong to God. In telling God that we know all the blessings and good things we have come from God; we make a promise that we will take good care of these gifts God has given us.
There are many ways to do this – Taking good care of our bodies, not using more water than we need, picking up litter or recycling, sharing with a new person at school – these are all good examples of how we remind ourselves to take care of what God has given us and asked us to take care of.
We have come to end of the prayer. All of our prayers end with the word, “Amen.” “Amen” means “so be it” or “let it be so.” When we say “Amen,” we are saying that what we have prayed, we mean, and what we mean, we intend to do. It is our promise to live a life shaped by following Jesus. As Monique now leads us in singing the Lord’s Prayer, I invite you to let the prayer settle into your being. It is so much more than words to memorize. This prayer is the pattern for our relationships with God, with one another and with the world. Lord Jesus, may your prayer form our lives so that we become ever more faithful to the work of re-creating the world as our God would have it to be. Amen.
Eliot Church of Newton